BBC boss: Sorry for online debate on killing gays

AP News
Posted: Dec 17, 2009 3:38 PM

A senior BBC executive apologized Thursday for hosting an online debate over whether gays should face capital punishment in Uganda.

The broadcaster drew criticism from some lawmakers and users for the discussion forum, which ran under the headline: "Should homosexuals face execution?"

BBC's "Africa Have Your Say" Web site asked for people's views on a proposed Ugandan law that would punish some homosexual acts by life imprisonment or death. The African country's parliament is also considering rules that could jail family and friends for up to seven years if they fail to report their homosexuality to authorities.

Critics complained Wednesday that the debate was sensationalist and inappropriate. Lynne Featherstone, an opposition lawmaker with the Liberal Democrats, said she was deeply offended that the BBC thought it legitimate to debate killing gays.

BBC World Service director Peter Horrocks wrote in a blog posted on the broadcaster's Web site: "We apologize for any offense it caused."

He said the headline was too stark in hindsight. Editors had changed it to "Should Uganda debate gay execution?" after they closed down the debate.

He added, however, that the program was a legitimate and responsible attempt to encourage discussion about a crucial African issue.

The program provided "a platform for debate that otherwise would not exist across the continent and beyond," he wrote.